Shankar, one of my favourite Indian directors, began his career in the early 1990's with Gentleman, which I haven't seen but I hear is not all that good. His next film, the Prabhudeva-Nagma starrer Kadhalan (1994), was a commercial hit with a popular A.R. Rahman soundtrack, but his film career really hit a stride when he made Mudhalvan (which he later remade in Hindi, and titled Nayak: The Real Hero, starring Anil Kapoor), a story of an everyman who gets to be Chief Minister for 24 hours, does a lot of good in the role and therefore creates a scandal for the political establishment.
Considering this background, Kadhalan (which, as the title suggests, centers entirely on a love story between the leads) is sort of Shankar before Shankar himself knew the kinds of films he was best at making. The lack of a social message is partly what makes this film so uninteresting in my eyes. The love story isn't believable, original or striking enough to make for a good story, and the villain isn't even bad enough. Coupled with some very questionable scenes (like the torture of Prabhudeva's character by a female police officer), and in terms of plot this film just doesn't feel very worth watching.
The positives come from a couple of comical scenes (not provided by the film's comedian Vadivelu, who's so unbearably unfunny it hurts) and the indeed memorable soundtrack. The song visuals include excellent dancing by Prabhudeva, and there's even a couple of scenes where he does some awesome classical dancing. (The blogosphere's resident expert on classical dancing films, MinaiMinai, posted her thoughts on the movie here.) A fun piece of trivia is that my favourite actor Vikram actually dubbed for Prabhudeva in this film. (Don't ask me why, I honestly couldn't tell you..)
I don't want to rag on the film too much. It does have some good bits and pieces that remind me of my favourite Shankar films, and it was obviously a very popular film in its time. But overall, it simply didn't win me over like his others have, and I'm only holding onto the DVD for the fun songs.
Speaking of which, here's one of them - enjoy!
Take it easy!